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Your car is judging you

Here’s how, and why, that’s a good thing

What’s the smartest piece of technology you own? Next to your smartphone, it’s probably the car you drive. Semi-autonomous and driver assist technology in modern vehicles is advancing at a rapid pace. And although it’ll probably still be a few years till most of us use a fully autonomous vehicle every day, Ford is aiming to make one available for ride-sharing and ride-hailing services as early as 2021.

The kind of semi-autonomous and driver assist features already available in modern cars is designed to detect less than ideal driving conditions, and step in to help – before you even realise you need it. Below are five of those features which make your time on the road safer and less stressful. Bear in mind, the specs vary from make to make, and even model to model, so always refer to your owner’s manual for details.

Driver Alert System
The situation: Your car is veering between lane markings.
The judgment: This driver may be distracted or dozing off.
The action: Warns you of your faltering vigilance level.
How it works: The Driver Alert System judges your vigilance level by measuring your car’s position within the lane and the yaw (or rotation) rate of your car. If the vigilance level falls below a certain level, due either to fatigue or distraction, a ‘Rest Now’ warning may be displayed, accompanied by a chime.

Collision Warning Technology
The situation:
You’re in fast-moving traffic, there’s the potential for a collision with the vehicle in front, and you’re not acting to prevent it.
The judgment: This driver needs help to brake in time to prevent a collision.
The action: Warns you to enable faster braking.
How it works: This technology continuously monitors the traffic conditions ahead. When it senses a high risk of collision with the vehicle in front, and that you are not doing anything about it, the system will alert you with audio and visual warnings. Some cars are also equipped with brake support to provide faster braking performance when necessary.

Active Braking Technology
The situation:
You’re driving in heavy traffic or at slower speeds, and don’t step on the brakes quickly enough to deal with situations like a car in front suddenly changing lanes or stopping for a red light.
The judgment: This driver is approaching the vehicle ahead too quickly and the distance is critically reducing.
The action: Autonomously applies the brakes.
How it works: Active braking technologies are designed to trigger the brakes when they sense that the required braking force to avoid a collision is escalating, and you haven’t taken action yet. As an example, Ford’s Active City Stop technology does this by using a sophisticated light- and range-detecting sensor that scans the road ahead 50 times a second when you are driving between 3.6 and 50km per hour.

Electronic Stability Programme
The situation:
You swerve quickly, causing your car to lose traction.
The judgment: This driver needs help regaining control of their car.
The action: Automatically applies the brakes and adjusts engine torque to help you regain control.
How it works: Most modern cars come with some version of an Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), which can help you maintain control in adverse driving situations or when you are making quick manoeuvres. When ESP senses that your car is losing traction, it automatically applies the brakes to individual wheels, and adjusts engine torque to improve your vehicle’s stability and help avoid skidding. If the ESP light in your instrument cluster is flashing, it’s indicating that your ESP has activated. As skidding is one of the main causes of accidents, avoiding it is really important.

Lane Keeping System
The situation:
You are drifting out of your lane and are not indicating.
The judgement: This driver is unintentionally changing lanes.
The action: Warns you of the lane departure and steers you back to your current lane if you do not respond.
How it works:
When you start to leave your lane without indicating, the lane keeping system is designed to see it as an unintentional lane departure, and helps warn you through a vibration in the steering wheel. If you do not respond to the alert, the system may go a step further by applying steering torque to keep you in your current lane.